When you look back in Vineyard history, you find justice as a theme from the beginning. Even before the Vineyard movement began, John Wimber attended a conference where he was so touched by what was going on there, that he called his wife Carol, and said “if we ever plant a church again, we have to do something about the poor.” This theme of compassion, of caring for the people God cares for, the theme that the Bible highlights over and over again, this is a core component of Vineyard DNA.
This month, we want to take some time to introduce you to the Vineyard Justice Network (VJN). We believe that church planting and working for justice go hand in hand. So it makes sense for Multiply Vineyard and VJN to partner with each other. In fact, we have begun working together with two main objectives in mind. We want to empower every single Vineya
rd church plant to effectively tackle justice issues in their particular contexts. And we want to address the justice issues we find throughout the US and the world by promoting the discipleship and kingdom theology of healthy
Vineyard church planting.
To give you a little taste of how VJN came about, here’s some background on the group from Kathy Maskell, who has been part of the VJN leadership team since its inception:
The Vineyard Justice Network actually began as the Vineyard Anti-Slavery Team (VAST) back in 2009. The steering committee, made up of Steven Hamilton, Cheryl Pittluck, and myself, were driven by a vision of God’s holistic justice from the beginning—but we wanted to start from where we were planted, and that was specifically in the area of fighting human trafficking, or modern-day slavery. Over the past five years, VAST witnessed Vineyard USA’s growing reputation as a movement that effectively engages with critical injustice of human trafficking.
This year, we (and the VUSA national leadership) agreed that now was the right time to build on the fruit of VAST by expanding our “justice response” to create Vineyard Justice Network. So, VJN just launched at the national conference in July! We exist to empower Vineyard pastors and leaders to pursue and enact the justice of God’s kingdom by offering resources and facilitating conversations on the interconnectivity of God’s justice. VJN focuses on three key entry points into addressing systemic injustice: freeing slaves, ending poverty, and tending creation.
At the national conference, we connected with over 200 Vineyard pastors and leaders during the week (representing over 30 states), most of whom had been engaged with justice and compassion work from the beginning of their church plants. I was deeply encouraged by the countless conversations with Vineyard pastors who are leading the way in our movement. They are partnering with their city to coordinate foster care placements with Christian families, serving refugee and undocumented immigrant families with legal assistance, developing community gardens, providing emergency housing for trafficking victims, facilitating Muslim-Christian dialogue, and creating long-term partnerships within a neighborhood to open community centers.
So, VJN aims to create a new space for these pastors and leaders to be networked so that they can encourage, challenge, and learn from one another.
This is why the new VJN resource site focuses on highlighting and celebrating the wealth of resources and the depth of work already represented by Vineyard churches.
Excerpted from a Vineyard USA article from 2013.
Kathy is on staff as Pastor of Discipleship at the Blue Route Vineyard, as well as a member of the VineyardUSA executive team, in addition to her work with VJN. We asked her to comment on our new partnership from Vineyard Justice Network’s perspective. Here’s what she said:
We’re thrilled to now be official partners with Multiply Vineyard. VJN will help MV develop church planters who embody the Vineyard value of compassionate ministry and allow God’s compassion to lead them to “do justice.” This pathway of formation should be a natural expression of bringing good news to all the communities where there is a Vineyard church, not something extra! Connecting the dots between compassion and justice is embedded in the DNA of our movement. John Wimber said in the early days of the Vineyard: “When we stand for social justice, we testify to the presence of the Kingdom.” Demonstrating “compassionate justice” through investing in the actual lives and issues of your particular community is a critical way a Vineyard church plant can be a faithful witness to God’s kingdom. We’re looking forward to partnering with Multiply Vineyard to help nurture church planters with this DNA from day 1 of their church plant.
We are thrilled, too, Kathy! And we’ll be delving deeper into justice topics both here in our newsletter, as well as on our blog in the coming weeks and months. But in the meantime, we’d love to invite you to get involved
First off, you are invited to Vineyard Justice Network’s premier yearly event: The VJN Forum. This year’s theme is: Jesus, The Kingdom, and The Poor. This event will be held October 16-17 this year at the Raleigh Vineyard, Raleigh, NC. For more information, to check out the fantastic lineup of speakers, or to buy your tickets, hop over to the VJN website.
We also want to let you know now that Multiply Vineyard and VJN will be holding a webinar January 7th, 2016, 8-9:30pm ET. The topic is “How to Include Justice in the DNA of Your Church Plant.” We’ll be focusing on church plants in every stage, and how you can build justice in, even if you haven’t focused on that so far. Mark your calendars!
And finally, we’d love to hear from you. How is God asking you to address justice and compassion issues in your particular contexts? What do you see as some of the big challenges ahead of us as we press into these topics more deeply?